10 things you need to know today: June 4, 2021
Biden slashes infrastructure proposal but GOP opposition remains, U.S. to send 1st 25 million vaccine doses abroad, and more
Biden cuts infrastructure proposal in meeting with GOP negotiator
President Biden reportedly said in a Wednesday meeting with the top Republican negotiator, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), that he would cut the size of his infrastructure proposal to about $1 trillion and drop a proposal to pay for it partly with a corporate tax hike, The Washington Post reported Thursday. Instead, Biden wants to raise money by eliminating loopholes that corporations and wealthy taxpayers use to lower their tax bills, and setting a minimum corporate tax rate of 15 percent. Republicans proposed covering the costs of upgrading roads, bridges, and other infrastructure by repurposing unspent money that had been set aside for coronavirus relief. They said Biden's plan was unacceptable because it still sought to pay for infrastructure with increased tax revenue from businesses.
25 million COVID vaccine doses set to be sent overseas
The White House announced Thursday that the United States would start shipping out the first of the 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses President Biden has promised to send overseas. "Today, we're providing more detail on how we will allocate the first 25 million of those vaccines to lay the ground for increased global coverage and to address real and potential surges, high burdens of disease, and the needs of the most vulnerable countries," Biden said in a statement. With U.S. vaccine supply now exceeding demand, the Biden administration has faced mounting pressure to share doses with hard-hit nations, such as India, that are struggling to contain coronavirus surges. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said some of the initial doses were being sent to India, Gaza, and the West Bank, and other places "facing crises."
Facebook to end hate-speech exception for politicians
Facebook is expected to announce Friday that it is ending an exemption for politicians from its rules against hate speech. The policy change would mark a major reversal following criticism that the social network was too lenient on powerful leaders during Donald Trump's presidency. After the 2016 election, Facebook weighed the newsworthiness of political speech against the threat it could cause harm. Under the new policy, the company will stop considering newsworthiness and decide whether to permit posts by politicians based solely on adherence to anti-hate rules, The Washington Post reported, citing a person familiar with Facebook's plans. In cases of extraordinary newsworthiness, Facebook could still make exceptions, but plans to disclose those cases publicly, the source said.
Biden expands list of blacklisted Chinese companies
President Biden signed an executive order on Thursday expanding a ban on U.S. investment in Chinese companies believed to be linked to China's military. Biden also added more companies to the blacklist, bringing the total to 59. Many of the additions were subsidiaries of state-owned companies and other businesses included on the original blacklist drawn up by former President Donald Trump's administration. Several of the new companies on the list have links to state-owned aerospace giant Aviation Industry Corporation of China. Two are affiliates of telecommunications gear-maker Huawei. The order was one of the first concrete steps by the Biden administration as it reviews China policy, including tariff hikes imposed by Trump, who accused China of unfair trade practices.
Biden to meet Queen Elizabeth during G-7 trip
President Biden will meet with Queen Elizabeth II during a trip to the United Kingdom for the Group of Seven summit there in mid-June, Buckingham Palace announced Thursday. The Queen will host Biden and first lady Jill Biden at Windsor Castle on June 13, after Biden attends the three-day G-7 summit. Queen Elizabeth has met with 14 U.S. presidents in her 69-year reign, every one since Harry Truman except Lyndon B. Johnson. She met former President Donald Trump, Biden's predecessor, in June 2019 during his state visit to the U.K. in June 2019. Due to coronavirus precautions, Biden's trip to the U.K. will be his first foreign in-person engagement as president. He sent his condolences to Queen Elizabeth after the death of her husband, Prince Philip, in April.
DOJ puts ransomware investigations on level with terrorism
The Justice Department is raising its focus on investigating ransomware attacks to a priority level as high as terrorism after a flurry of devastating cyberattacks, including one that shut down the Colonial Pipeline and created fuel shortages in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic. The internal guidance, issued Thursday, came as the world's largest meat producer, Brazil's JBS, worked on getting its U.S. plants online after a ransomware attack blamed on suspected Russian hackers forced a brief shutdown of its U.S. plants, disrupting distribution, raising meat prices, and causing some shortages. Under the new guidance, U.S. attorneys' offices will share information through a central task force in Washington, D.C., to help make connections and "disrupt the whole chain," said John Carlin, principal associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department.
Matt Gaetz faces obstruction of justice investigation
Federal prosecutors are investigating potential obstruction of justice by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) connected with a call he made to a witness in an inquiry into possible sex crimes. The witness reportedly has ties to both Gaetz and his friend Joel Greenberg, a former Florida county tax collector who has struck a deal to cooperate with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to several charges, including sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl. The Greenberg case led prosecutors to look into Gaetz, who has denied paying for sex or ever having sex with an underage girl. A spokesperson said Gaetz also denied trying to interfere with the investigation. "Congressman Gaetz pursues justice, he doesn't obstruct it," the Gaetz spokesperson told NBC.
DOJ investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy
The Justice Department is investigating controversial Postmaster General Louis DeJoy over political fundraising at his former business, CNN and The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the inquiry. DeJoy's spokesman, Mark Corallo, confirmed the investigation was underway but said DeJoy had done nothing wrong. "Mr. DeJoy has learned that the Department of Justice is investigating campaign contributions made by employees who worked for him when he was in the private sector," Corallo said. "He has always been scrupulous in his adherence to the campaign contribution laws and has never knowingly violated them." DeJoy has faced controversies since shortly after the Postal Service's board of governors appointed him in May 2020, starting with cost-cutting moves he imposed that slowed down deliveries across the country.
Celebrity lawyer F. Lee Bailey dies at 87
Celebrity lawyer F. Lee Bailey has died at an Atlanta-area hospital, a former law partner, Kenneth Fishman, said Thursday. He was 87. Bailey had battled several medical issues since moving to Georgia a year ago to be closer to one of his sons. Bailey, a best-selling author, defended O.J. Simpson, Patricia Hearst, and the alleged Boston Strangler before he was disbarred in two states, bringing his legal career to a halt. Simpson, a once beloved football star and actor, was acquitted on charges that he killed his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, in 1995. He told The Boston Globe Magazine in 1996 that Bailey was the most valuable member of his legal "dream team."
Hong Kong blocks Tiananmen anniversary vigil
Hong Kong cordoned off a park to prevent the annual gathering of tens of thousands of people to mark the anniversary of China's 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. Also on Friday, authorities arrested the vigil's organizer, Chow Hang Tung, vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, accusing her of promoting an unauthorized assembly. "She only wanted to go to Victoria Park, light a candle, and commemorate," Chiu Yan Loy, executive member of the Alliance, told Reuters. Activists said the move was an act of suppression against an event that served as a symbol of democratic hope in the former British colony, now semi-autonomous but back under Chinese control. Police banned the event for the second straight year citing the danger of coronavirus infections.